Mitzvah Market Magazine: Home Run Mitzvah Project

Mitzvah Market Magazine: Home Run Mitzvah Project

By Adam Koss
This Fall, I will become a Bar Mitzvah. About a year ago, my parents asked me how I wanted to celebrate the milestone event in my life. Most kids, like my sister, have a big party after their synagogue service. My brother decided not to have a big party, but rather to celebrate by having his Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem at the Kotel. The idea of a big dance party wasn’t really interesting to me and since we’d already been to Israel for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah, I wanted to do something different. My parents were supportive and decided to give me the freedom to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah in a way that would be meaningful to me. The one thing they stressed was that I needed to come up with something that would fulfill the mitzvah of giving back to my community in some way.

My mom also told me that a good Mitzvah Project involves something you are passionate about. I love baseball a lot. So I came up with the idea to take a road trip and go to all 30 Major League Baseball parks in the USA and Canada. My parents work from home, which made it possible for us to travel all summer long. I did some research to find out that other people have done this trip in one summer. I read an article about two people who did the trip in college and reached out to them for some advice. They gave me some great advice about planning and contacting the teams. They also raised money for charity when they did their trip, which gave me the idea that I could do the same and connect it to my Bar Mitzvah. Their advice ultimately made this trip possible.

I thought that instead of a party, I could ask friends and family to help me raise money and support three charities that help kids with life-threatening illnesses. The first was the Make-A-Wish Foundation which grants wishes to kids with serious diseases. Since this baseball trip was my wish, I wanted to help make other kids’ wishes come true. The second organization I picked was the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money for research and cures for childhood cancer. My dad and I had shaved our heads as part of our synagogue’s team and raised money for them in the past. The third was the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which raises money to help create a world without type 1 diabetes. I have a grandfather who struggles with diabetes and I hate seeing him go through it. It is something I want to help cure.

To raise money, I created a “Home Run Club” where instead of Bar Mitzvah gifts, friends and family could pledge a certain amount of money for every home run I witnessed on my trip. At the end of the trip, they would pick one of the organizations to donate their pledged amount. Based on averages, I knew there would be about 60-70 home runs in 30 games, so it would be a great way to raise money to help other kids.

As my parents and I started planning, we created a Website (adamsmlbroadtrip.com) that explained who I was and what I was doing. Then, we reached out to every MLB team and told them about my road trip. The idea began to take on a life of its own as people started to “get it” that this was so much more than a trip to see some baseball games. I was amazed that 22 out of 30 MLB teams gave my family free tickets to a game. Other teams offered stadium tours, on-field batting practice, signed items and merchandise. Two highlights of the summer were when one team let me throw out the first pitch and when I met a player who donated money to my fundraiser.

We also decided to reach out to Hilton hotels to see if they would help us out. Again, the response was great. In almost every city with an MLB ballpark, Hilton put us up for free. In many cases, they had Bar Mitzvah “gifts” of snacks, drinks and personalized items waiting for me in the hotel room. One manager said that he remembered secretly leaving his own Bar Mitzvah party to go check the ballgame scores.

There were so many people I met who shared stories of their baseball memories and I realized there were a lot of baseball fans in this country. The trip itself was amazing. I successfully saw a game at every MLB Park and we were able to complete the trip in 60 days. I gave lots of interviews as we went around the country. People seemed really excited about my trip and fundraising project. Several MLB players even donated.

By the time the trip was done, I saw a total of 73 home runs and raised over $20,000 for the three organizations. More than 200 individuals and families have donated so far. Many of them are family and friends but almost half of them are people I met while we were on the trip.

It was also a great way to spend time with my family and see a lot of the United States. We recorded our experiences throughout the summer in a blog that is on my Website. Even though the trip is over, we are still accepting donations and they keep coming in. Instead of a Bar Mitzvah party that lasted a few hours, I had a Bar Mitzvah experience with my family that lasted for two months, with memories that will last a lifetime. I learned that the world is full of truly generous and amazing people. As I take my place as an adult in my community this Fall, I realize that I have made a difference and it feels great.

Adam Koss is a seventh grader from Syracuse, NY. To learn more about his Mitzvah Project or to make a donation visit www.adamsmlbroadtrip.com.

Mitzvah Market - Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planning ResourceGet a copy of Mitzvah Market Magazine here.

Posted in Projects and tagged , .